News Releases

(Washington D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) released the following statement after Republicans blocked the Big Oil Bailout Prevention from passing today. This bill, co-sponsored by Senator Murray, would make sure oil companies are held accountable for the economic costs resulting from spills.

“I am extremely disappointed that Senate Republicans once again put Big Oil profits over Washington state taxpayers,” said Senator Patty Murray. “Today, we had a chance to make sure Washington state taxpayers would never be left holding the bag for oil companies’ environmental and economic disasters, but Senate Republicans said no. This is a simple issue of fairness—if an oil company causes a spill, they should have to pay to clean it up.”

Currently, the responsible party in an oil spill must cover all costs related to clean up; however, there is a $75 million cap on its liability for economic damages, such as lost business revenues from fishing and tourism, natural resources damages or lost local tax revenues. The Big Oil Bailout Prevention legislative package would raise the liability cap from $75 million to $10 billion.

The legislative package is composed of two bills. One to increase the oil spill liability cap and the other is to reform the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

S. 3305, The Big Oil Bailout Prevention Liability Act would:

  • Raise the liability cap for offshore oil well spills from $75 million to $10 billion.
S. 3306, The Big Oil Bailout Prevention Trust Fund Act would:
  • Eliminate the $1 billion per incident cap on claims against the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and allow community responders to access the fund for preparation and mitigation up front, rather than waiting for reimbursement later.
  • If damage claims exceed the amount in the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (currently $1.6 billion), then Treasury can temporarily refill the Fund and be repaid by the oil industry with interest once it is replenished. 
  • Eliminate the $500 million cap on natural resources damages.

The Big Oil Bailout Prevention legislative package was introduced on the heels of the British Petroleum Gulf Coast oil spill disaster, and days after BP announced that their single-quarter profits doubled to $6 billion.